Thursday, November 06, 2014

Layered Cascading Tutu Tutorial

Don't you just love it when your child's school give you exactly 2 days' notice to whip up a fancy dress costume!  Yesterday we were told that my daughter's school were going to be having a "Harvest Themed"  fancy dress day to raise money for the school.  The obvious options were to go as a farmer, scarecrow or milkmaid - none of which we had at home and none of which I could persuade my daughter to go as.  Apparently they're not "pretty enough."

So here I am, trying to create a pretty Harvest costume out of thin air.

I wanted to make an autumnal coloured skirt, which may or may not be decorated with leaves if I manage to find the time from somewhere... (as you can see, I didn't.)

The Tutorial 

I decided to make a kind of layered, floaty tutu, but I wanted it to be slightly different from the kind that is just strips of fabric knotted around a piece of elastic.  I wondered if it would be possible to make the strips twist and twirl like falling leaves as they cascaded.

To make the skirt you need: - 
  • A metre or 2 each of as many different coloured nylon and polyester satin, organza and tulle fabrics you can find.  (I live in a small town and so I was limited to just a few shades of habutai polyester, some lining fabric and some bright orange tulle fabric.)  I already had a few remnants of other fabrics that I was able to put to use.
  • 2 metres or so of 4cm wide ribbon.
  • Elastic
  • Pattern Pieces
  • Candle lighter
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine

Print out the 3 pattern pieces, cut out the grey shapes and tape them together into one long semi-circular strip.

Fold your different coloured fabric pieces up as many times as possible, allowing you to cut out 8 to 10 pieces at the same time.  I found the safest way to ensure that all of the fabric was under the pattern piece was to fold it over and under like a concertina.

If you have a lot more time than me, you could cut each piece out individually, which would make more economical use of your fabric, giving you a few more strips to work with.

In the end I managed to cut 44 pattern pieces out of as many different fabrics I could find. 

To prevent the fabric edges from fraying and to give the fabric pieces more volume, singe around all the edges with a candle lighter - of course this method is only suitable for nylon and polyester.  Never try this with cotton or silk and always do a test sample first over a bucket of water!  The net or tulle fabric don't need to be singed as it doesn't fray.

The skirt could be made completely out of tulle if you prefer, but you would need a lot more fabric and a lot more layers to get a similar effect.

Once you've singed around all of the edges of your nylon and polyester fabric it's time to start assembling the layers. Before you start pinning, work out what your colour pattern is going to be.  I had 5 different fabrics, all in varying quantities, so on a piece of paper, I made a note of the order I needed to arrange my fabrics so that I had an even spread of colour all around the skirt.

Each piece is pinned to the previous piece at the straight edge.  Overlap your pieces so that just a couple of centimetres is left exposed.  Continue from left to right, staggering the overlaps until all of your fabric pieces have been used up.

Alternate the direction of the curve in the pattern pieces as you work your way along the skirt.

Here's a close up of the singed edges of fabric.  You can see that the opacity of some of the fabrics means that you don't need nearly as much fabric, as you would with just tulle, to get quite a dense looking skirt.

To make the skirt a lot more solid looking I added a circle underskirt to the whole thing.  To draw the pattern for my circle skirt I used this ingenious page by the Scientific Seamstress.  It's brilliant!  It allows you to print out lots of pieces of paper that all tape together to form a quarter circle of concentric circles.  I worked out how large the circumference of the inner circle needed to be by loosely measuring my daughter's hips and then adding a few centimetres.  From that I worked out what diameter the waist hole needed to be*.  This gave me the size of the cut out hole in the centre.  Onto that I added double the length that I wanted the skirt to be and this gave me the diameter of the circle I needed to cut out.  I hope that all made sense!

*For reference, the formula for working out the diameter from the circumference is :-
Diameter = Circumference divided by Pi

Once all of your strip pieces have been pinned together, run a long basting stitch across all of the pieces and remove the pins.

Now pin the fabric strips all the way around the edge of the inner circle.  If your layered skirt is much larger than your inner skirt waist, use the basting stitches to gather it all in to the same size. By huge coincidence, my over-skirt was exactly the same size as the inner waist hole. 

To make the waist band, cut 2 strips of ribbon the same size at the waist, with an extra couple of centimetres for folding over.  Stitch them together along one of the long edges to form the front and back of the waist band.  With the wrong sides together, fold along the seam and press the seam along the right side.

With the right sides together, pin the waist band into place, folding over the ends.  Stitch the waist band into place.

Fold the waistband over to its correct position and pin into place.

Stitch the inside of the waistband into place by stitching as close as possible to the bottom edge of the front waistband.

Finally, using a safety pin, thread some elastic all the way through the inside of the waistband, try it on and knot the elastic at the point where it fits comfortable but snuggly.

There you have one swirly, cascading, floaty skirt, that any 6-year-old girl would love!

If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy this:-

World Book Day - Lulus spotty bow

Up House pom pom mobile

World Book Day - cuddly costume props


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Anne said...

Gorgeous!! I've got a Craft Gossip post that links to your tutorial:

Sassss said...

6 yr old? Harumph!! I want one! Lol!

Unknown said...

If I wanted to make it for an adult what would be the easiest way to make the pattern bigger, would it work it I just extended the ends of the first and last pattern or should all of the pieces be marginally bigger? Thanks

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

It really depends on how long you want it. If you were going to try to alter the semi-circle piece, you would really need to alter all three pieces of the pattern.
Personally I would print out all of the paper pattern, piece it together and then hold it up against yourself to see how much longer it needs to be. Then of course you would need a lot more strips to get a full skirt to go around an adult’s waist.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to try this for myself. I keep buying them on Amazon but they don't always have what I'm looking for. I'm going to take you suggestions for making myself one. Would love to hear any other suggestions you might have regarding one for adults

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I would love to see an adult version of this! If you were to print out the pieces, and stick them together, you could then carry the circle shape around on another piece of paper until it’s the desired length. The inner circumference (or part circumference) will be the length of the swirly strips when they’re hanging down.

You could make the skirt fuller by placing the strips closer together, or maybe by adding a netted skirt underneath.